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THURSDAY, JULY 5, 2007
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Nation celebrates, welcomes new members
Firework blasts shine across U.S.

By Samantha Gross
Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK — Fireworks crews checked the wiring for their displays and thousands of people staked out their favorite viewing spots Wednesday for the annual Fourth of July pyrotechnics extravaganzas.

America’s birthday celebration opened in Philadelphia with a reading of the Declaration of Independence at Independence Hall, and descendants of signers of the original declaration were on hand for a symbolic ringing of the Liberty Bell.

Some 3 million people were expected to watch the Macy’s pyrotechnics show in New York — billed as the nation’s biggest with 40,000 fireworks — from vantage points up and down the East River and elsewhere, said show spokesman Orlando Veras.

A forecast of rain however threatened to keep some away. Veras said only a severe electrical storm would delay the festivities. “The show is waterproof,” Veras said.

The festivities and patriotic observances took place under heightened security in the aftermath of the attempted car bombings in Britain.

Hundreds of officers from about 20 law enforcement agencies were on duty in Washington. The Mall was fenced off and visitors were required to pass through 19 security checkpoints, which opened at 10 a.m.

“We’re expecting a record crowd to come out this year and enjoy the fireworks,” said U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. Robert Lachance. Crowds have reached 500,000 people or more in the past.

Bad weather

On Wednesday afternoon, severe weather that brought a tornado warning for Washington’s suburbs prompted authorities to evacuate thousands of people gathered at the Mall. Authorities said the evening’s activities would continue as planned, and expected the crowds to be allowed back at about 7:30 p.m.

Security measures at the New York region’s tunnels, bridges and airports remained heightened following failed attacks on Glasgow and London last week, and no additional precautions beyond those already in place were taken for the holiday, said Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

In Massachusetts, 20 local, state and federal agencies were assigned to help police the annual Boston Pops concert and fireworks show. Car and boat traffic were banned from the area and security was tightened at mass transit stations.

Dry weather curtailed some celebrations. Breckenridge, Colo., canceled its fireworks show because of the high fire danger. In Washington state, private fireworks were banned in Seattle, Tacoma and parts of Spokane.

In the South, some cities across Georgia considered canceling fireworks displays because of a drought, but two big shows stayed on the schedule for Atlanta, one downtown and one at Lenox Square in Buckhead.

Citizenship

About 1,000 people from around the globe became U.S. citizens at Walt Disney World, raising their right hands in front of Cinderella’s castle at the Magic Kingdom as the oath was read by Emilio Gonzalez, head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“I dreamed for this moment for 13 years, and finally this is my last dream that I have,” said Marta Hima, who came from Colombia and now lives in Davenport, Fla.

More than 350 new citizens were sworn in at Phoenix. “Now I feel like I can be part of this community,” said Alicia Gray of Gilbert, Ariz., who came to the United States from Mexico in 1996 and brought her American husband, her children and in-laws. “I’m more a part of this country now.”

It was also a day to honor military service. The Army honored its one-millionth veteran at an American Legion post in Philadelphia.

The recognition went to Bronze Star recipient Bill Beck of Steelton, Pa.

“I’d rather be honored with this than win a million dollars in a lottery, because my wife would spend a million in a couple of weeks and I’ll have this for the rest of my lifetime,” Beck said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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